In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Rhetoric and Communication

  • Introduction
  • Anthologies, Handbooks, and Encyclopedias
  • Historiography of Rhetoric
  • On Sophistic and Greek Rhetoric
  • Foundational Primary Texts in Greek and Roman Rhetoric
  • Medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment Rhetorics
  • 20th Century Rhetoric in Philosophy, Composition, and English
  • Rhetorical Theory and Criticism from 1914 to the 1960s
  • Rhetorical Theory and Criticism in the 1970s and 1980s
  • Rhetorical Theory and Criticism from the 1990s to the Present
  • Rhetoric and Public Discourse
  • History of Rhetoric
  • Argumentation
  • Rhetoric of Inquiry
  • Rhetorics of Resistance: Ideological Criticism and Critical Rhetoric

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

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Communication Rhetoric and Communication
Michael Pfau
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 April 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0203


The term “rhetoric” (rhetorike) was coined by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, and systematically elaborated upon by his successor Aristotle. On the basis of these foundational texts in particular, the term has been borrowed, abused, adapted, and transmuted by every culture from the ancient Romans onward to contemporary rhetorical studies and communication scholars. This bibliography conceives of rhetoric as a “metadiscourse,” or a language about language, one that has been used at various times, places, and circumstances in order to enable the production and interpretation of discourse. The Historiography of Rhetoric recognizes that “rhetoric” is a term that is simultaneously enriched, and burdened, by its long history of over two millennia, and the fact that it refers sometimes to practices of language and speech, and sometimes to theories about such practices. On Sophistic and Greek Rhetoric examines the social, political, and intellectual context in which the term rhetoric emerged and was invented. Foundational Primary Texts in Greek and Roman Rhetoric provides a cursory summary of the ancient Greek and Roman texts that have served as the foundation for rhetoric as a metadiscourse. Since the focus of this bibliography is rhetoric and communication, Medieval, Renaissance and Enlightenment Rhetorics provides the thinnest coverage, with an emphasis on some of the earliest texts on rhetoric in the English language. The coverage of the most recent century is itself divided into several sections. 20th Century Rhetoric in Philosophy, Composition, and English reviews some of the major figures outside of communication that helped to give shape to rhetorical studies’ emergence and development within the communications discipline. The next sections (Rhetorical Theory and Criticism from 1914 to the 1960s, Rhetorical Theory and Criticism in the 1970s and 1980s, and Rhetorical Theory and Criticism from the 1990s to the Present) trace some major developments in the fields of rhetorical theory and criticism from 1914 to the present. The distinction between rhetorical criticism, concerning the interpretation of rhetorical texts, and rhetorical theory, pertaining to theories about rhetoric, is not hard and fast insofar as most studies contain critical as well as theoretical aspects; but it will suffice for these purposes. Subsequent sections are organized around some of the emergent subfields and emphases that help to organize scholarship in rhetoric and communication studies (e.g., Rhetoric and Public Discourse, History of Rhetoric, Argumentation, Rhetoric of Inquiry, and Rhetorics of Resistance: Ideological Criticism and Critical Rhetoric). These categorizations may be somewhat imprecise, but will suffice for the purposes and constraints of this bibliographic project.

Anthologies, Handbooks, and Encyclopedias

Anyone compiling an anthology, encyclopedia, or bibliography on a topic as burdened by history and complexity as rhetoric must, of necessity, adopt an attitude of humility. Whether one is limited to 150 entries or 1,600 pages, it is always difficult to know what ought to be included (and hence what will be excluded). Each of the sources below has done an outstanding job of making the kind of compromises necessary to account for a subject like rhetoric in a manner that is as comprehensive and inclusive as possible based upon their generic constraints. In terms of collecting primary sources on rhetoric under one cover, Bizzell and Herzberg 2001 is the best and most complete anthology of rhetoric, covering a vast historical period in a manner that is relatively comprehensive. However, most of the texts contained herein are relatively short excerpts from the original sources, and the anthology includes no works by communication rhetoric scholars. In terms of the key monographs that characterize the 20th century history of rhetorical studies in communication, Lucaites, et al. 1999 contains the most comprehensive collection of texts. Lunsford, et al. 2009 and Parry-Giles and Hogan 2010, on the other hand, each contain a wide range of thorough and insightful essays about rhetorical scholarship in communication in the 20th century. In terms of the encyclopedias referenced below, all are to some extent interdisciplinary in terms of their orientation and entries. However, Enos 1996 is put together in a manner designed for an English and composition perspective. Jasinski 2001 is more oriented toward the interests and needs of rhetorical scholars in communication. And Sloane 2001 seems to reflect the concerns of scholars in a number of disciplines, though it is also heavy on authors and entries that would be of interest to rhetorical scholars in communication. It is perhaps appropriate that a bibliographic project that conceives of rhetoric primarily as a metadiscourse, or a language about language, would commence with a review of encyclopedias and anthologies. After all, such sources are concerned specifically with analyzing and defining the concepts and terms that have animated and driven rhetoric as a language about language for over two millennia. It is hoped that the inevitable omissions and oversimplifications in this bibliography’s telling of one version of rhetoric’s story can be remedied by further reading in these, as well as other sources. Rhetorical metadiscourse, after all, is a living language.

  • Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg, eds. 2001. The rhetorical tradition: Readings from classical times to the present. 2d ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

    Anthology contains over 1,600 pages of primary texts on rhetoric from ancient Greece to present. Introduction admits: “Rhetoric is a complex discipline with a long history” and “Rhetoric has a number of overlapping meanings . . . It is less helpful to try to define it once and for all than to look at the many definitions it is accumulated over the years and to attempt to understand how each arose and how each still inhabits and shapes the field” (p. 1).

  • Enos, Theresa, ed. 1996. Encyclopedia of rhetoric and composition: Communication from ancient times to the information age. New York: Garland.

    Written from the perspective of writing studies, but containing entries by authors in several disciplines, this volume, according to the editor, “provides an introduction to rhetoric, including the major periods and personages, concepts and applications” though the editor admits that “Rhetoric, though the oldest and broadest of the humanities, is becoming ever more difficult to locate in a conceptual framework” because of its quality as “metadisciplinary.” The editor hopes that this volume can contribute toward “communicating within and across complex, multilayered discourse communities” (p. vii).

  • Jasinski, James. 2001. Sourcebook on rhetoric: Key concepts in contemporary rhetorical studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781452233222

    The volume, authored by a communication scholar, is meant to provide an introduction to “the intellectual world, as well as the academic subdiscipline, of rhetorical studies.” While there is no entry on “rhetoric” the introduction reflects on the difficulties of “defining rhetoric as an object of intellectual inquiry” and the “definitional ambiguities of the term rhetoric itself” (p. xiii). The introduction adopts the organizing principle of rhetoric as theory (rhetorica docens) versus rhetoric as practice (rhetorica utens).

  • Lucaites, John Louis, Celeste Michelle Condit, and Sally Caudill, eds. 1999. Contemporary rhetorical theory: A reader. New York: Guilford.

    This volume is an excellent companion to Bizzell and Herzberg 2001 since it is not intended to provide a comprehensive History of Rhetoric but, rather, “to provide a brief introduction to the contemporary issues and concerns that have animated the work of rhetorical theorists since the late 1960s” and to contextualize the interest of contemporary rhetorical theorists “both historically and conceptually” (p. 2). In all an excellent compilation of monographs by rhetorical studies scholars in communication.

  • Lunsford, Andrea A., Kirt H. Wilson, and Rosa A. Eberly, eds. 2009. The SAGE handbook of rhetorical studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    This sourcebook is an interdisciplinary effort containing a series of essays organized around “Historical Studies in Rhetoric,” “Rhetoric Across the Disciplines,” “Rhetoric and Pedagogy,” and “Rhetoric and Public Discourse.” This bibliography utilizes two essays from this volume (Walzer and Beard 2009, cited under Historiography of Rhetoric, and Zarefsky 2009, cited under Rhetoric and Public Discourse), but the entire volume ought to be read by anyone seriously interested in the history and current state of rhetorical studies in communication.

  • Parry-Giles, Shawn J., and J. Michael Hogan, eds. 2010. Handbook of rhetoric and public address. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

    This handbook contains several essays by leaders in the field on the “History and Prospects of Rhetoric and Public Address” that position the area of study broadly and historically, as well as a series of methodologically oriented essays on “Basic Research in Rhetoric and Public Address.” In addition, the handbook contains a wide range of case studies organized around “Text and Context in Rhetoric and Public Address,” “Questions of Effect in Rhetoric and Public Address,” and “The Politics of Rhetoric and Public Address.”

  • Sloane, Thomas O., ed. 2001. Encyclopedia of rhetoric. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This hefty tome of over 800 pages contains more than 200 entries, but one thing that distinguishes it from other encyclopedias is that it contains exclusively concepts, “not one person is listed among the entries” (p. xi). The synoptic outline of the volume’s contents reveals that it contains comprehensive accounts of the elements, schema, major principles, and related subjects of rhetoric, along with coverage of the major periods in the history of rhetoric (see p. 799).

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